I feel like screaming the words of an excellent Bloc Party song: “So here we are, again”. I have once again been given a reviewer hat and a shiny new Sony Ericsson smartphone to play with. The reason this feels so familiar is that I’m left with the uncomfortable (and yet, familiar) feeling that I should like the phone regardless of all the petty nit picks I can find.
The phone in question this time is Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Ray, part of a new Xperia range hitting the market this quarter, all of which are small in stature. We were lucky enough to be sent a number of these phones to review this month (five in total), and because I am a club-thumbed Neanderthal, I tried to take the biggest phone we received. Even at that, the Xperia Ray is tiny in comparison to most smartphones (3.3-inch screen and only 100grams), but it does pack a lot of features into its small frame.
OS and processor
Sony Ericsson has, once again, gone for Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) for the new range of smartphones. The Xperia Ray does work well with this operating system, zooming along with a small but still very decent 1GHz snapdragon processor and 512MB RAM. While it may not be a dual-core processor, it does handle everything the resource-light Gingerbread OS can throw at it.
Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS
3.3-inch, 854 x 480 pixels display
1.0 GHz snapdragon processor
512 GB RAM
300MB internal storage (plus up to 32GB MicroSD expansion)
Bluetooth 2.1 and Wi-Fi b/g/n
8.1MP camera, 720p HD video recording
Display and resolution
The screen resolution is a meagre 854 x 480 pixels. I say meagre because in a world of heavy-hitting specs we are lead to believe that bigger is better. The iPhone, for example, is 960 x 640 pixels, but it is the PPI (pixels per inch) that tells the truth for the Xperia Ray. Built on the BRAVIA (Best Resolution Audio Visual Integrated Architecture) engine, it ensures the PPI ratio is high, despite the apparent downgrade in resolution; the Ray has only 26ppi less than the iPhone 4. The result is a crystal-clear display with razor-sharp resolution.
Photo and video
With a nice, shiny screen it would be good to have some nice, shiny images and videos to view on it. Fortunately, Sony Ericsson continues its grand tradition of producing phones with stunning photo capabilities, earning the reputation that some phones are more like cameras with integrated phones rather than the other way around. [/FlightOfTheConchords]
The camera in question is an 8.1-megapixel shooter with a LED flash. The camera can be controlled with a one-touch capture and has a 16x digital zoom along with some other nice features, like face and smile recognition. Admittedly, the still photos I gathered came out immensely but the zoom did distort the images quite a bit. The Xperia Ray also features 720p HD video capture and with the aforementioned screen resolution, it is nice to watch recorded videos back.
Photo: Aviva Stadium before Ireland vs Slovakia game taken with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray camera
More images taken using the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray can be seen on Siliconrepublic.com’s Flickr page
Sound and audio
The Xperia Ray has a good sound quality and a very good music player built in. One of the features I like is the 3.5mm headphone jack. I know it’s a trivial thing, but thankfully, manufacturers are finally realising that the ability to plug any set of headphones into a phone is needed. The phone has a built in FM radio which runs very well and has a good display, but the coverage weaved in and out a good bit, which was a disappointment.
Running Android ensures the Xperia Ray has a large back catalogue of apps available for download. Some work as you would expect but others are a little harder to use based on the phone’s screen size. The pre-installed apps work well, with the particular highlights being the image gallery display which will also sync your photos from a Facebook account to display all your photos in the one place. Other special mention goes to the ‘Timescape’ app, which displays all correspondence from calls, texts, Twitter and Facebook.
The Xperia Ray is a nice little phone with good features and the backing of a solid OS. But I’m left with a niggling feeling of sameness from it, the reason being that I can take that summary and apply it to any smartphone released in the last six months or so. Android 2.3 is used in so many phones now that the only degree of customisation has to come from the phone’s design. Unfortunately, the design for the Xperia Ray doesn’t wow me and with it being a particularly small phone it lacks a lot in functionality in some aspects.
I’m stuck like I was with the Nokia C7 insomuch as the phone is just a small bit too small for my liking. It even has the same shortcoming with the QWERTY keyboard the C7 had, ie, the phone is a little too small to use a full QWERTY keyboard but tries to anyway at the expense of using the bare minimum for a screen display when texting/writing emails/updating Twitter.
Overall, though, these are petty complaints and I know the vast majority of people will like the Xperia Ray. It is a safe bet for a smartphone. It’s small, light, comes with a solid OS capable of a huge array of apps and obviously the best feature being the integrated digital camera.